Discussion:
b and i
(too old to reply)
Aaron Swartz
2004-05-14 23:57:41 UTC
Permalink
http://mpt.net.nz/archive/2004/05/02/b-and-i

More often, people switch from i to em for everything they want
italicized, and from b to strong for everything they want in bold.
Authoring software often does this — tools like the original Wiki,
Wikipedia, and Markdown make it easy to use em and strong, and harder
(or impossible) to use i, b, or any of the other italic or bold
elements.

This is bad.
Fred Condo
2004-05-15 00:07:22 UTC
Permalink
Post by Aaron Swartz
http://mpt.net.nz/archive/2004/05/02/b-and-i
More often, people switch from i to em for everything they want
italicized, and from b to strong for everything they want in bold.
Authoring software often does this — tools like the original Wiki,
Wikipedia, and Markdown make it easy to use em and strong, and harder
(or impossible) to use i, b, or any of the other italic or bold
elements.
This is bad.
He's wrong about language, for sure, and wrong in the long term about
everything, because of MathML and TaxonML (ok, I made that one up).

<p>She has a certain <span xml:lang="fr" lang="fr">je ne sais
quoi</lang>.</p>

Should it be easy to use i and b? Perhaps, because usability is good.
But not for the reasons cited. Thomas's two specific examples (taxa and
vectors) are for highly technical fields that either have or ought to
develop a markup language for their semantics.
Aaron Swartz
2004-05-15 00:20:18 UTC
Permalink
Post by Fred Condo
He's wrong
Nonsense; mpt is always right.
Post by Fred Condo
<p>She has a certain <span xml:lang="fr" lang="fr">je ne sais
quoi</lang>.</p>
This is discussed in the followup:

http://mpt.net.nz/archive/2004/05/09/semantic

Here’s what I used in my original example:

<i lang="fr">je ne sais quoi</i>

These two options have exactly the same semantics. The only difference
is that [your] version doesn’t work in Internet Explorer for Windows.
Or in Internet Explorer for Mac. Or in Opera in User Mode. Or in
Mozilla with Basic Page Style selected. Or in Firefox with Basic Theme
selected. Or in Lynx.
Fred Condo
2004-05-15 00:45:10 UTC
Permalink
Post by Aaron Swartz
Post by Fred Condo
<p>She has a certain <span xml:lang="fr" lang="fr">je ne sais
quoi</lang>.</p>
[snip]
Post by Aaron Swartz
<i lang="fr">je ne sais quoi</i>
I've created a monumentally simple test page here:

http://tincture.us/absinthe/static/aaron.html
http://tincture.us/absinthe/static/aaron.css
Post by Aaron Swartz
These two options have exactly the same semantics. The only difference
is that [your] version doesn’t work in Internet Explorer for Windows.
Broken browser. Yes, yes, I know. But using i intermingles presentation
with semantics, and I'm trying to be a purist here. It doesn't work in
this browser, but it degrades gracefully.
Post by Aaron Swartz
Or in Internet Explorer for Mac.
Irrelevant browser (abandoned by its maker and supplanted by Safari).
Safari does not work with my samples either.
Post by Aaron Swartz
Or in Opera in User Mode. Or in Mozilla with Basic Page Style
selected. Or in Firefox with Basic Theme selected. Or in Lynx.
I don't even have Opera, but of course I take your word for it.

My way maintains the division between appearance and semantics, and is
forward-compatible. Should Markdown care about this distinction? No.
This discussion is rather far afield from Markdown. So I reiterate what
I wrote before: it should be easy to get i and b in Markdown because
usability is nice and people should be able to avoid markup that's
plain nonsense. Now I'll be quiet, because I'm sure this topic has been
exhausted, and only overwhelmingly convincing evidence will make me
change my mind about that exhaustion or the theoretical underpinnings
of the topic.
Rad Geek
2004-05-15 01:08:40 UTC
Permalink
On Fri, 14 May 2004 17:45:10 -0700, Fred Condo <***@tincture.us> wrote:

. . .
Post by Fred Condo
http://tincture.us/absinthe/static/aaron.html
http://tincture.us/absinthe/static/aaron.css
[N.B.: the sample doesn't work anywhere unless you happen to be able to
apply arbitrary stylesheets to a given HTML page, because you forgot to
use a <link rel="stylesheet"> in aaron.html. I don't know whether that was
intentional or not.]

. . .
Post by Fred Condo
This discussion is rather far afield from Markdown. So I reiterate what
I wrote before: it should be easy to get i and b in Markdown because
usability is nice and people should be able to avoid markup that's plain
nonsense.
Fortunately, it *is* easy to get `b` and `i` in Markdown. (And also `cite`
and `var` and `dfn` and so on....) Unlike (some) Wiki software, Markdown
lets you embed whatever (X)HTML you want:

I don't know about *you*, but *I* think <cite>Foundation's Edge</cite>
is the
lamest part of the series.

Or:

In philosophy, <dfn>metaphysics</dfn> is the study of being
<span xml:lang="la">qua</span> being. Metaphysical questions are
questions about
the fundamental nature of things. (They should *not* be confused with
questions
of *epistemology*, which have to do with how we come to *know* things.)

So, I have trouble seeing the mapping of `*` and `**` to `em` and `strong`
as particularly pernicious here. (It's different for WikiMarkup that tries
to act as a *replacement* for HTML. But Markdown doesn't do that. So no
problem, right? Let a thousand semantic tags bloom.)

-C
--
Charles Johnson <***@radgeek.com>
AIM: AiPuch
WWW: http://www.radgeek.com/

Using M2, Opera's revolutionary e-mail client: http://www.opera.com/m2/
Fred Condo
2004-05-15 05:03:38 UTC
Permalink
Post by Rad Geek
[N.B.: the sample doesn't work anywhere unless you happen to be able
to apply arbitrary stylesheets to a given HTML page, because you
forgot to use a <link rel="stylesheet"> in aaron.html. I don't know
whether that was intentional or not.]
D'oh! Fixed.
Lou Quillio
2004-05-15 01:16:33 UTC
Permalink
tools like the original Wiki, Wikipedia, and Markdown make it easy to
use em and strong, and harder (or impossible) to use i, b, or any of
the other italic or bold elements.
This is bad.
Sure is. Textile solves it nicely:

_emphasis_
__italics__
*strong*
**bold**

As to whether bold and italics are inherently presentational and have
no place in semantic XHTML, I'll submit the example of <br />. By a
certain logic, <br /> is purely presentational as well, and doesn't do
anything that styled paragraphs can't. Until you want to write poetry.

Call it representational semantics. It's real.

LQ
John Gruber
2004-05-15 02:58:57 UTC
Permalink
Post by Aaron Swartz
http://mpt.net.nz/archive/2004/05/02/b-and-i
More often, people switch from i to em for everything they want
italicized, and from b to strong for everything they want in bold.
Authoring software often does this — tools like the original Wiki,
Wikipedia, and Markdown make it easy to use em and strong, and harder
(or impossible) to use i, b, or any of the other italic or bold
elements.
This is bad.
MPT is high up in my subscription list, so I saw this and the
follow-up, and thought about it quite a bit. I even wrote notes for
a follow-up to publish at DF, but didn't have time to complete it.

(Hence my quietness on the Markdown front overall.)

Where I think I disagree with MPT is in the implied meaning of the
`<em>` and `<strong>` tags. MPT implies that `em` is only
appropriate for cases like this:

I'm <em>really</em> annoyed

I.e. that the "emphasis" implied by the `em` tag is only a very
specific type of emphasis, that being to place extra stress on words
to emphasize their importance. And that `strong` is the same thing,
just more so.

I don't agree with this at all. [Here are the W3C's descriptions for
the `em` and `strong` tags for HTML 4] [1]:

EM:
Indicates emphasis.
STRONG:
Indicates stronger emphasis.

That's all they say. Just "emphasis", not any specific kind of
emphasis.

So, what's "emphasis"? [American Heritage defines it thusly:] [2]

1. Special forcefulness of expression that gives
importance to something singled out; stress:

a lecture on housekeeping with emphasis
on neatness; paused for emphasis, then
announced the winner's name.

2. Special attention or effort directed toward
something:

a small-town newspaper's emphasis on
local affairs.

3. Prominence given to a syllable, word, or words, as by
raising the voice or printing in italic type.

MPT seems only to be allowing for definition 1. I think that if you
take definition 2 and esp. 3 into account, then it's fair to say
that `em` and `strong` have much wider applications, completely
within the spirit and intentions of the (X)HTML spec.
Post by Aaron Swartz
More often, people switch from i to em for everything they want
italicized, and from b to strong for everything they want in bold.
I say, according to the definitions above, this is in fact
*correct*.

It's easy for a newspaper or magazine to declare that their house
style for foreign language words is to use italics, and to mean it
literally, because in print, italics is always available. Whereas in
HTML, literal italics is not always available -- e.g. screen readers
for the blind, or plain-text browsers such as Lynx.

I say, the reason many publications italicize foreign language words
is to put a bit of emphasis on them. Yes, it's a different type of
emphasis than that which is implied in "I'm *really* angry", but
it's still a form of emphasis. Thus I think `em` is a perfectly
reasonable tag choice for "italicizing" foreign language words.

MPT is a good writer and a serious thinker. After my first reading
of his essay, I was leaning towards support `i` and `b` in Markdown
somehow. But the problem is that MPT's entire argument is based on a
very narrow definition of "emphasis".

Having thought this through, I now believe that `i` and `b` should
almost *never* be used. The only case I think where they're
appropriate is self-reference, e.g. the sentence:

In headlines, use <b>bold</b> and <i>italics</i> sparingly.

And even then, why not special tags for everything?

<r>Red</r>, <g>Green</g>, <bl>Blue</bl>


[1]: http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/struct/text.html#h-9.2.1

[2]: http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=emphasis


-J.G.
John Gruber
2004-05-15 03:04:37 UTC
Permalink
Post by Lou Quillio
As to whether bold and italics are inherently presentational and have
no place in semantic XHTML, I'll submit the example of <br />. By a
certain logic, <br /> is purely presentational as well, and doesn't do
anything that styled paragraphs can't. Until you want to write poetry.
I'd argue that `br` is not merely presentational. It can be used
for purely presentational purposes, but it can also be used as a
sort of punctuation.

The name "break" implies what the semantic meaning is.

Admittedly `br` is a bit unique, but I wouldn't lump it with `i`
and `b`.

-J.G.
Lou Quillio
2004-05-15 03:47:11 UTC
Permalink
Post by John Gruber
Admittedly `br` is a bit unique, but I wouldn't lump it with `i`
and `b`.
Must disagree.

Look, I scorned <b> and <i> too. Lately, though, I try to filter hard
for those occasions where I'm just going for bolding or italics yet
intend no particular emphasis in terms of screen-reader interpretation.
Doesn't come up often but it *does* come up.

"Well then put on the presentational layer, Lou [you corrupting fool]."
Why? Then I'll have to make a whole special container with attribute
noise and whatnot. I'll have to maintain it if the document moves.
Even sitting where it is, some user-agents aren't going to consider
linked styles ... and I want that passage persistently italicized,
dammit. It's the title of full-length work, or some other typesetting
convention is at hand. Who knows? Where I want emphasis I'll use
<em>. Where I want persistent italics with no implied vocal emphasis
I'll use <i>. Don't tell me there's no place for it. Screen-readers
can ignore it: I'm talking to sighted readers accustomed to print
conventions. Or is that not allowed?

Matthew Thomas goes a bit too far, but only a bit.

I chose the wrong term earlier. <b>, <i> and <br /> can convey certain
*visual* semantics that only obtain in the sighted world. They have
value there and, when used with care, should neither be foregone nor
elevated to a specially-interpreted vocalization.

Textile has this right. It's a little harder to mark-up <b> and <i>,
but it's there if you really mean it.

LQ
John Gruber
2004-05-15 03:22:03 UTC
Permalink
Post by Fred Condo
Post by Aaron Swartz
Or in Internet Explorer for Mac.
Irrelevant browser (abandoned by its maker and supplanted by Safari).
It is and always will be the most popular browser for Mac OS 9 and
earlier. It's discontinued and fading, but it'll be a while before
you can call it irrelevant.

Here are my user agent stats at DF for May, to date:

Safari: 8644
OmniWeb: 255
IE Mac: 594
IE Win: 7840
Camino: 285
Fbird M: 16
Fbird W: 209
Fbird O: 22
Moz Mac: 178
Moz Other: 803
Opera: 500

(Note that I'm pretty sure my script is counting OmniWeb 5 betas as
Safari, so the OmniWeb count is probably a bit low, and the Safari
count a bit high.)

-J.G.
John Gruber
2004-05-15 03:42:49 UTC
Permalink
Thomas's two specific examples (taxa and vectors) are for highly
technical fields that either have or ought to develop a markup
language for their semantics.
Right. To me, he's looking for specific sub-classes of "emphasis",
but they're still forms of emphasis.

I think if you take this argument to its conclusion, you'd end up
with dozens of different "emphasis" tags:

<sarcasm>
<incredulousness>

Etc.

I also disagree with MPT about the `cite` tag. He gives the example
of italicizing a book title like this:

Jared Diamond's <cite>Guns, germs, and steel</cite>

But the [W3C's example usage of `cite`] [1] contradicts this:

As <CITE>Harry S. Truman</CITE> said,
<Q lang="en-us">The buck stops here.</Q>

More information can be found in <CITE>[ISO-0000]</CITE>.

According to the W3C, the `cite` tag can be used for citing
anything, including people, not just for the titles of publications
and works of art. And you certainly wouldn't want to italicize
Truman's name in the rendered output for the above markup.

One could argue that you could use CSS classes to differentiate
which citations ought to be italicized:

<cite class="pubtitle">The New York Times</cite>

But why not this:

<cite><em>The New York Times</em></cite>

And I just don't see the point of the `cite` tag, period. MPT argues
that it's useful for semantically savvy HTML parsing software, but I
don't see how that's so. `cite` has no standard attributes that can
be used to discern what is actually being cited.

For example, in this markup:

<cite>Amazon</cite>

What am I citing? Amazon.com, the web site? Or a book title
"Amazon"? And if it's a book, *which* book? (I just did a quick
search, and found at least four books in print with that title.)

On the other hand, the "cite" attribute for the `blockquote` tag
*is* indeed semantically useful.

This markup:

<blockquote cite="http://mpt.net.nz/archive/2004/05/02/b-and-i">

tells you exactly what is being cited.

In conclusion, I'm more convinced than ever that Markdown should
only offer shortcuts for `em` and `strong`, and that `i`, `b`, and
`cite` should be left to raw HTML if you want them.


[1]: http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/struct/text.html#h-9.2.1


-J.G.
Jelks Cabaniss
2004-05-15 06:09:35 UTC
Permalink
Post by John Gruber
Post by Lou Quillio
As to whether bold and italics are inherently presentational and have
no place in semantic XHTML, I'll submit the example of <br />. By a
certain logic, <br /> is purely presentational as well, and doesn't
do anything that styled paragraphs can't. Until you want to write
poetry.
I'd argue that `br` is not merely presentational. It can be used
for purely presentational purposes, but it can also be used as a
sort of punctuation.
Agreed. While `<line>` (or `<l>`) might be better for, well, lines, `<br/>`
is what we have to work with now. And lines of poetry or addresses, while
obviously presentational, are IMO primarily *semantic* lines. The
presentational comes from the semantic, not the other way around. (Well,
except when it doesn't. Like with ransom notes and Joe's First Homepage...
:)


/Jelks
Jelks Cabaniss
2004-05-15 06:17:45 UTC
Permalink
Post by John Gruber
As <CITE>Harry S. Truman</CITE> said,
<Q lang="en-us">The buck stops here.</Q>
More information can be found in <CITE>[ISO-0000]</CITE>.
According to the W3C, the `cite` tag can be used for citing
anything, including people, not just for the titles of publications
and works of art. And you certainly wouldn't want to italicize
Truman's name in the rendered output for the above markup.
I found the W3C's example puzzling the first time I read it years ago, and I
still think it's unhelpful (to be charitable). If you follow their line of
thinking, you could end up marking up every reference noun as a citation!

The original HTML 2.0 specification said:

The <CITE> element is used to indicate the title of a book
or other citation. It is typically rendered as italics. For
example:

He just couldn't get enough of <cite>The Grapes of
Wrath</cite>.

I suspect a few folks there tried to get clever and "expand" the definition.
Anyway, most people just ignore what the HTML 4 Rec. says and use `<cite>`
the way &Deity; intended -- for the title of a work.
Post by John Gruber
And I just don't see the point of the `cite` tag, period. MPT argues
that it's useful for semantically savvy HTML parsing software, but I
don't see how that's so.
`grep` & Co. aren't semantically savvy, but they sure help after
transcribing works in building references to the cited material. It's also
helpful to mark up all titles as `<cite>`s during the initial
transcriptions, then later search them out to convert some of them as
appropriate to links. I suppose we could use `<span class="citation">` or
some such, but ... ugh! :)
Post by John Gruber
In conclusion, I'm more convinced than ever that Markdown should
only offer shortcuts for `em` and `strong`, and that `i`, `b`, and
`cite` should be left to raw HTML if you want them.
I flip-flop between wanting MD to have more or less only what it has now,
and wanting a more or less 100% textual representation of the entire HTML
repetoire...


/Jelks

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